Starting Jan. 1, 1991, two new types of Eurail Youthpasses will be available to travelers under 26. And it won't be necessary to hit the rails daily to take full advantage of their value.
For years, younger travelers have purchased one- or two-month Eurail Youthpasses that allow transit in the second-class section of trains in any of 17 European countries.
But to get as much value as possible from the ticket, it was necessary to race from one city to the next, trying to cover as much ground as possible during the alloted time.
The new Flexi Youthpasses encourage a slower pace. With the 15-day Flexi Youthpass, the traveler can journey second-class throughout the 17-country network on any 15 days within a three-month period. A second version will allow travel on any 30 days within a three-month period.
Rates for the Flexi Youthpasses have not yet been determined, but as with all other Eurail tickets, they will have to be purchased from travel agents before leaving home.
For those who decide they prefer the regular one- or two-month Youthpasses, keep in mind that rates usually increase on Jan. 1. At present, the one-month ticket costs $380 and two months cost $500, so you may want to buy now. If you do, you must begin to use the pass within six months of the date you buy it.
In addition to reduced prices, "unlimited" rail passes offer another advantage: If you are really stuck for a place to stay at night, you can hop aboard a train.
For example, with a pass for second-class travel, you can get on a train in Amsterdam at 4 p.m. and get off at 9 a.m. in Florence. Or you can board a train in Paris at 9 p.m. and arrive in Rome before 2 p.m. the next day.
And if you're willing to pay about $20 more, you can stretch out in a berth in a six-bunk compartment.
You'll find it easier to anticipate the distance you can comfortably cover by asking for a free copy of "Through Europe By Train," which should be available through the agent who sells you the pass. The book contains time tables and connections for some of the most popular routes throughout Europe.
Major stations will have large computerized boards that display arrival/departure times and track numbers. Detailed schedule boards will tell you where you should be and when to catch the train you want. Keep in mind that large cities will have more than one rail station.
Before getting on board, check the plaque beside the door. Not all cars on a train will go to the same destination. Some trains will switch cars at stations along their route. The plaques by the doors indicate where each car should wind up.
And to save additional money, plan to carry your own water and pack a snack.